Incidents of sexual assault and harassment at Fort Hood, including the Vanessa Guillen case, have sparked lawmakers and military leaders to take a closer look at how sexual assault is handled in the military.
On Tuesday, the House Armed Services Committee held a hearing to discuss the findings and recommendations of the independent review commission on sexual assault in the military.
“We’re trying to make sure we take an approach that reinforces that trust. That addresses a specific problem in an evidence-based way and that we can implement to deliver real changes in a system that needs this change to deliver for sexual assault and sexual harassment victims,” said Department of Defense Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks.
The independent review commission on sexual assault in the military presented their plan to reform the way military sexual assaults are handled.
During a hearing with the House Armed Services Committee, suggestions include removing sexual assault and related crimes from the military chain of command.
It’s a move that many current and former military leaders question. Dr. Hicks said the plan is to establish special prosecutors to handle sex investigations and keep commanders informed on the entire process.
“We just don’t simply take something out of the chain of command. That’s looking past the whole of what we’re trying to do here. We’re trying to do is build trust in the system and build tools for victims, build tools for prevention and build tools for commanders,” said Dr. Hicks.
The Committee also discussed defining sexual harassment as a crime under military law and to provide restitution for sexual assault victims in the military.
“We are dedicated to pushing change that moves fast and delivers for victims of sexual assault and sexual harassment for the next generation of service members,” said Hicks.
During the hearing, the commission also said they plan on finding ways to offer more mental health victim advocacy services to service members.